One Colt Army

by VIRAnimation


Despair

DAY 2 – 3:00AM

On his trek to the extraction point, the end of the trail opened up into a sizable clearing hosting Rumble's immediate destination. The grass beneath his hooves was damp; he idly wondered if it had recently rained or if the ferns in the jungle retained moisture for longer periods of time. In either case, the sensation provided him one last lingering respite before he made his way into the Equestrian Copter. An unsettling worry of failure firmly gripped at him as he seated himself next to Rez, who was eyeing him with a friendly smile.

Sensing his uneasiness, Rez said, “Well, aren't you a cutie?” She winked at him in a light-hearted manner and ruffled up his mane playfully. “Don't worry about a thing. We'll get your fillyfriends back, just you wait and see.” Her smile faded and her eyes cast downward in doubt for a brief moment before she flashed him another smile. “The good guys never lose.”

In her mannerisms she expressed no more confidence about the success of this mission than he felt. He had thought that the worry would fade with experience, and certainly to some extent it undoubtedly would, but perhaps he had been wrong about it going away entirely. Did Thunderlane feel the same way before his missions?

“Right, I guess I shouldn't dally. This copter won't fly itself.” As Rez shifted in her seat, Rumble noticed for the first time since entering the helicopter that she had been wearing combat ready garments. A full-body latex suit hugged her frame; it didn't look like it would stop a bullet, but he supposed it would allow her the excellent mobility one would need to get out of tight situations.

Additionally, her physique was alluring, which caused Rumble to swallow audibly. He looked away uncomfortably. Rather than giving attention to her attire, he tried to focus on formulating a plan of attack whilst waiting within the confounds of the transport. Despite his efforts to maintain his composure, he found himself eyeing her out of corner of his eye.

In rapid succession, Rez pressed down on the ignition button and flipped on the exterior lights to the helicopter and pulled back on the cyclic with a booted hoof to propel the vehicle off the ground. She then ran her other hoof through her blue mane. “So, what are your fillyfriends like?”

The dull hum of the propellers resounded through the cabin as Rumble looked out the window of the copter at the jungle below. He shuddered momentarily, the memory of the patrol pony dying coming back to him unbidden. Trying to ignore the banter, he instead turned back to her and asked, “How long until we reach our destination?”

Other than the quick glance she gave him, nothing of her cool demeanor told him that she was in any way affected by his dismissal of her question. Still, he became immediately aware of it and wished he been more amicable and a little less direct. That gruesome scene must have gotten to him more than he had initially realized.

While monitoring their altitude and trajectory, Rez made slight adjustments in the course with the cyclic. “By my calculations, if we maintain our current speeds, we should be there in about … twenty to thirty minutes. You doing okay? You look pale as a ghost.”

“I'm fine.”

An eerie silence drowned all the noise inside the cabin as he returned to staring out the window. Gazing back at him was his reflection, displaying all of the worry and vulnerability within his expression. They had become more pronounced with the end of their conversation; there was nothing now to distract him from the horrors he had seen.

The realization that this entire time she might have been trying to preoccupy his mind suddenly dawned on him, and he broke eye contact with his own reflection to glance back in her direction. A stern look was present on her face, one that came with the knowledge of a possibly grim outcome just beyond the horizon. Perhaps in actuality, it had been her own mind she was trying to preoccupy.

He suddenly found the floor interesting to look at as he contemplated over what to say to break the silence once more. Despite her friendly tone so far, Rez was still nothing more than a stranger to him. Beyond having a common goal, he didn't know that much about her. Was it wise for him to open up to her and divulge privy information to a mare he had only known for a few hours?

By the merits of her actions and the way she carried herself, Rez's motivation seemed genuine. Had she not, he could very well still be hiking through the rough terrain of the jungle or possibly even be dead at the hands of that guard. He shook his head ruefully; he could trust her, and talking to her about the crusaders and his past would take his mind off everything for a moment.

“The girls are about as sweet as you can imagine. No way in a million years do they deserve what's happening to them, Ms. Rez.”

At the sound of his voice, Rez's ears perked up. “Roger that.”

Rumble looked up to the mare, who encouraged him to continue by shooting him a smile. By this point, the tension was ebbing away, and Rumble chuckled in spite of there being nothing remotely humorous about his tale. Thoughts filled with Sweetie Belle, he recounted his first interaction with the fillies, growing more excited as his story unfolded.

“. . . So there I was, snapping passes back to my teammate, Pipsqueak, left and right. We were down in score, and we only had a couple of minutes left on the clock. Everything hinged on me not fumbling the ball. Did I mention how tough they were? I mean, they were good.” Rez only nodded in affirmation as she made another minor adjustment to her course.

“Well, I was a little too rough with the ball and sent it soaring into the bushes. We called time out and I followed after the ball beyond the playing field. In search of it, I stumbled my way into the path of the crusaders, who were in the middle of their own game.

“With my eyes trained at the ground, not taking note of my surroundings, I hadn't actually seen them yet. I ended up bumping into one of the girls. The next thing I know I'm on the ground, and this filly by the name of Sweetie Belle landed on top of me.

“With a filly's body being completely foreign to me, I was nervous about putting my hooves on her to gently pull us apart, and so I squirmed from beneath her and tried to untangle myself with as little touching as possible. Not realizing that she was trying to do the same, I think I actually caused her to lose balance and fall back on top of me. She tried to catch herself, but all my moving led to her smacking my muzzle unexpectedly.” Rumble scratched his withers shyly, his cheeks heating up as he recalled the fond memory.

“Without meaning to, I opened my mouth to cry out in pain, but I was muffled by her hoofsy. In spite of myself, my tongue brushed up against it, startling her. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it kinda tasted good. I must sound like a creep. ” A frown adorned his features as he ran his hooves back and forth across the fabric of his seat.

Amused, Rez shook her head and chuckled. Patting his withers, she told him, “Everypony has their tastes, kiddo. Nopony can blame you for that . . . so long as you don't go forcing yourself onto them.”

“I wouldn't dream of it, honest! It's not like I'd do that. Especially not to Sweetie Belle.” He felt his voice weakening as the horrid picture of him doing that to anypony lingered in his mind. Outlandish as it was, it disgusted him to the point where he nearly convulsed, and it took him clenching his eyes shut and gripping a hoofful of cushion stiffly for him to calm down.

“Easy there, I didn't say that you would.”

“I know. It's just hard for me to picture somepony doing that to her. she's really sweet. After I had startled her, she jumped away and landed right on my ball, flattening it accidentally. I quickly apologized and tried to run away in embarrassment. That was when she called out to me.

“She said to me, 'I'm sorry too. Here have our ball.' As it turned out, they were just about to leave anyway, and they were going to have somepony stitch the broken ball back together again.” By the time he finished his story, his throat was parched from all the talking. He had gone on longer than he had meant to, but now that he was finished, the discussion left him feeling rejuvenated.

With a smile on his face, Rumble raised his head to see that the base was now coming into view. As far away as it still was, he couldn't make out any of the details yet, but its appearance filled him with anticipation.

An oncoming itch at the back of his head caused his thoughts to wander over the mare sitting next to him, and he became earnestly curious of her own background. He asked, “What about you, Rez? Before you mentioned something about a pony named Dox.”

“Oh Faust, Dox!” Upon hearing the pony's name, Rez was seething. She tightened her hold over the cyclic, and it threatened to buckle under the tension. “I'd rather not think about him right now. I really don't want to remember all of the horrors he inflicted upon me over the course of my imprisonment there. I'm sorry.”

By this point they were hovering just over the base, and Rez pulled back on the cyclic until they came to a full stop. Judging by the way her eyes scanned the ground below him, she appeared to be in search for a place to land. “I haven't been entirely forthcoming. The truth is, I've been really worried about your friends ever since you've mentioned them.”

Perturbed, the foreboding declaration left the sensation of a pang in his heart. Concerned, he asked, “What do you mean?”

“It's best I don't go into too much detail, for it may cloud your judgment in the hours to come. Let's just say . . . that Dox is a demented soul. I've never seen anypony as crazed as he is. If my fears are correct, your girls are in grave danger.”

Rumble could do nothing but stay silent as he soaked in the new information. With every piece of knowledge he learns about these mercenaries, they infuriated him more. Just what did these ponies do to Rez to make her this afraid of them, and what were they going to do to the crusaders, to Sweetie Belle?

“Blast!” Rez pulled back on the cyclic and directed the helicopter away from the structure below. He was just about to question her concerns when she continued, “They've made significant upgrades to their fortifications in the time that I've been away. I guess they prepared for my eventual return. We'll have to land a safe distance away and investigate their defenses from the ground.”

A couple of miles away from the site, Rez led the vehicle to a quickly nearing view of a clearing in the forest. Slowing their descent, Rez punched buttons on the console and made swift adjustments with her cyclic. Despite her expertise at the controls, the landing was hastily made, and the cabin shuddered roughly as the helicopter's wheels touched down.

Rumble didn't pay the landfall much attention, though, and upon exiting the cabin and setting hoof down onto soft grass once more, he said aloud to himself, “Hold on, Sweetie Belle. We're coming for you.”


DAY 2 – 7:00AM

When her consciousness returned to sunlight filtering in through nearby windows the next day, Sweetie Belle was disoriented by new surroundings and the pressing throb in her head. Upon feeling the discomforting sensation of her binds, tightly woven to the point where it stung her extremities at its focal point, she was immediately on alert. Reminded of their position, she took in her surroundings with the faint awareness of her friends being close by.

Distinguished from the rest of the base by the vibrant warmth it provided, the expanse around them was out of place to the comparison of the cold, barren enclosure they had familiarized themselves with. Polished mahogany panels lined the walls; they sported family photos, mostly of an unicorn stallion and his son, and artwork of a Maretorian influence. At the center of the back wall hung the largest painting, a colorful rendition of a dressed white-coated unicorn colt, his cobalt mane slicked back neatly, standing tall and proud.

In contrast to the methodically arranged artwork that adorned the walls, the rest of the room was in a state of disarray. Sprawled about the floor were toys of various shapes and sizes, some shattered beyond recognition. One particular grouping of toys that stood out to Sweetie Belle were the pony dolls that stood erect on top of a luxuriously crafted coffee table before them. They were contorted in a menacing fashion; some were missing limbs and a couple even their heads.

On the table, just off to the side, was a poor illustration of an undefined mass leering down at a number of ponies. In each of the ponies eyes were x marks. Overhead, in the sky, was both the sun and the moon, fractured into a multitude of pieces. Entitled at the top of the illustration was Fall of Canterlot.

Possibly the most disturbing article present in the room, however, rested on top of the table at its center. Every issue of Gabby Gums ever released was spread out on top of it. On its last issue, which accommodated a picture of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a large red circle was made around them.

Caught in a daze, Sweetie Belle shuddered and panicked. Taking in quick breaths, she unconsciously edged away from the table and gave out an exasperated cry. She suddenly became aware of the soft cushioning of a sofa supporting their weight. Every which way she looked, her surroundings screamed danger!

“Sweetie Belle, it's gonna be ok-okay.” Apple Bloom whispered in hysterics. Clearly as disturbed as she, the farm filly was desperately trying to keep the three of them calm and collected. Unsurprisingly, this was a futile attempt. There was no possible way one could maintain composure under these circumstances.

When they heard the sound of a door barging open, they fell into dead silence. Holding her breath as if to will away whomever had just entered their quarters, Sweetie Belle stood absolutely still and clenched her eyes shut. Pursing her lips, she swallowed hard and found her mouth dry. I . . . I want to get out of here!

The sound of a colt's voice shattered her dream. “Aw, you shouldn't sleep the day away, my little dearies.” He grabbed a hoofful of her mane and pulled her closer. She could feel the breath on her muzzle, and she opened her eyes in spite of her unrelenting fears. In front of her stood the very same colt from the painting on the wall. “Rise and shine!”

Releasing her from his grips, the colt picked up the top issue with the picture of the crusaders and flung the rest of the table's contents onto the floor. She flinched at the sound of the clatter, but her gaze remained fixated on the deeply disturbed individual in front of them. With the issue in hoof, the colt seated himself on top of the table and crossed his hindquarters.

As he turned the pages in the article, he mused over the entry and told them, “I don't see why you stopped doing this. This stuff was pure gold. Although, I think with my own personal touch, I wouldn't have stopped at mocking them for the small stuff. I would have destroyed their lives!” Flinging the article in their faces, they all shouted in terror as he invaded their personal space with a mischievous smile playing on his lips.

“You know, I think that's a great idea. Why don't we create our own Gabby Gums? You can write about all the things you used to!”

Too terrified to voice her objections, Sweetie Belle continued to edge herself away from the colt until she reached the corner of the couch, where she curled up and shivered involuntarily.

Having found the courage to stand up to him, Apple Bloom did not share her troubled emotions, at least not to the degree that impeded her ability to stand up to the boy. “We ain't gonna do that again. What we did back then was down-right mean. I reckon the townsfolk are still unhappy 'bout it.”

“No!” Taking Apple Bloom by the back of her head, the colt slammed her painfully against the table. “We will. It'll be fun. Or maybe you'd rather I do other things to your friends. I fancy the unicorn.”

“Please, anythin' but that! Fine, I'll do it.” All trace of resistance evaporated from Apple Bloom's pleading voice. Sweetie Belle could not help but feel the dread overcome her as she imagined the implications of the boy's statement.

Releasing Apple Bloom to unceremoniously plummet to the floor, the colt said, “That's more like it.” He then one by one went up to all of them and released them from their binds, opting to leave the mechanisms that inhibited their flight or magic in place. When he finished undoing the ropes that secured their hooves, he continued, “You better not run again, or you'll be sorry. Now get up. There's much to do.”

Directing them to the exit with a hoof, he led them into an adjoining hallway. Towards what destination, Sweetie Belle did not know, but regardless of the journey's end, the dangers had never been more real than they were now. As she listened intently for any signs of help to arrive, she could only hope that rescue would soon be on its way. But the only sound she could hear was their own hoofsteps resounding against the cold tiled floor of their imprisonment